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OSHA Proposes Cutbacks on Mandatory Reporting of Workplace Injuries

October 11th, 2018

OSHA Proposes Cutbacks on Mandatory Reporting of Workplace InjuriesBy: James R. Glowacki

On July 30, 2018, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking to ease Obama-era reporting requirements of workplace injuries and illnesses. Under the new proposal, many employers will no longer be required to annually submit certain reports logging and detailing injuries and illnesses suffered in the workplace.

Under the current rule, implemented in May 2016, employers with 250 or more employees or those in high-risk industries must annually submit information to OSHA from three forms, consisting of logs, reports, and summaries of work-related injuries and illnesses (Forms 300, 300A, and 301). The information is filed electronically, published on OSHA’s website, and made available for public inspection. Workplaces experiencing an inordinate number of injuries may face scrutiny from the public and thereby be encouraged to change practices and create safer working environments.

The new proposal eliminates two of the three forms (Form 300 and Form 301) submitted by employers and greatly reduces the amount of information available for inspection online. Many large employers are unsurprisingly in favor of the proposed amendment, believing the current reporting obligation is burdensome and the resulting information is misleading. Unions and other labor-interest groups, however, have emphasized the importance of having worker injury records publicly available for inspection.

OSHA states the changes are necessary mainly to “protect sensitive worker information from potential disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).” Though much of the personal identifying information contained within the records is “scrubbed” by an automated system prior to publication, OSHA insists there is no guarantee that every personal identifier will be caught. However, even under the amendments, this information would still need to be collected by employers and submitted to OSHA upon request, and may still be subject to disclosure under a valid FOIA request.

According to guidance issued by the administration, the collected information has uncertain enforcement value and places a serious burden on employers. OSHA claims to face a burden too, incurring costs in the collection, processing, analyzation and distribution of the submitted data.

Meanwhile, labor advocates warn that decreased reporting makes it much easier for employers to cover-up or underreport workplace injury. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters released a statement in the wake of OSHA’s notice discussing the importance of having injury reports readily available for public inspection. The Teamsters have been actively working with OSHA during the rulemaking process on behalf of their 1.4 million members.

If you have questions about injury and illness in the workplace or your rights under OSHA, contact an attorney from Willig, Williams & Davidson at 215-656-3600.

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